With surface glamour provided by sleek production values and fetching stars Mia Sara and Billy Zane, THE SET-UP is an assembly-line heist movie that ably camouflages its ordinariness.
After a failed high-tech cat burglary in which his wife is killed, career criminal Charles Thorpe (Zane) goes to prison and emerges determined to go straight. Working a parolee job as a security-device installer, Thorpe catches the eye of maverick banker Jeremiah Cole (James Coburn), who hires him
to develop a foolproof checks-and-balances system that will make Cole's bank impregnable. While at work, Thorpe falls in love with Cole's mistress, Gina (Sara). But Thorpe's good fortune is short-lived. He is framed for the murder of a cop by three crooks--mastermind Kliff (James Russo), sadist
Pauly (Louis Mandylor), and bully Leon (Tiny Lister)--who want his help breaking into Cole's bank. They have also kidnapped Gina, in order to ensure Thorpe's cooperation. Although Thorpe guides them through the elaborate protection devices he has installed, he arranges to lock them in the vault.
That's when he discovers that the real mastermind behind the robbery was Cole, with the assistance of Gina. When Cole refuses to rescue the trio from the vault, Gina murders him and takes Thorpe at gunpoint to the bank to effect a rescue. They are intercepted by the police, and events beginning
with a shootout culminate in the demise of Gina and her partners.
Fans of techno-criminology could do worse than this cool, impersonal thriller, even though it never fully engages the viewer. Amateur sleuths will have no trouble spotting the double-crosses before they arrive, which may be why the filmmakers chose to concentrate their energies on visual rather
than dramatic stimuli. The TOPKAPI-derived climax is a cat-and-mouse game in which we care little about either the scheming Thorpe or his tormentors. Persuasively acted by veteran smoothie James Coburn and the two romantic leads, THE SET-UP is knocked down a few pegs by the robbers--Mandylor, who
seethes with "method" menace; former wrestler Tiny Lister, a Tor Johnson for the '90s, and the hammy Russo, who seems on a pilgrimage to showcase the worst aspects of Method-acted hooliganism in all his performances. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, extensive nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: With surface glamour provided by sleek production values and fetching stars Mia Sara and Billy Zane, THE SET-UP is an assembly-line heist movie that ably camouflages its ordinariness. After a failed high-tech cat burglary in which his wife is killed, care… (more)